The MBC Discussion Brief on the EU Debate from a Politically Black Perspective

We shall declare from the outset that Momentum Black ConneXions (MBC) leans towards remaining in Europe with a great deal of reservation. From that starting point, we invite you to discuss with MBC, what we should think about on a much deeper level in looking at this European Referendum, from a Political Black Perspective. For example, there are some things we are in no doubt about but that we also recognise that this moment could be just as significant for us, such that a wider discussion that engages with our Black communities are integral.

Essentially, we currently regard the EU debate as an internal dispute between two uncompromising Imperialist old and new powers and that neither positions are to the real benefits of Black or working-class people. Indeed, since the discussion has once more reduced to the predictable simplistic racist ‘number-game’ in focusing on immigrant/migrants entering the UK/Europe, we can be in no doubt that, whether in Britain or in Europe, it is us that they are trying to get away from! Therefore, we feel it is the duty of MBC to consider this European Referendum not from a general White mainstream standpoint but from the consideration of our future Black generations. That is why you are invited here today because we want to envisage together with you, what a Black Britain or a Black Europe might look like for we realise that with 12 days to go, we have not even begun to have a serious debate from a Politically Black Perspective.

MBC calls to Remain in Europe with a focus on building our Black Communities and developing important alliances. It is difficult to know how many Black Communities exist across Europe because of the refusal of some countries in France, Germany and Sweden for example, to keep records based on ethnicity. Countries with recent African inhabitants such as Estonia have not begun to collect data.  Some countries keep records of ‘migrants’ but not of us born in that county.  Indeed, Britain is one of the few countries that do keep ‘ethnic’ records. As Media Diversified (May 2015), pointed out in relation to France, population numbers do not make sense because what they offer has no scientific grounding. French researchers are powerless because the French Constitution forbids ethnic statistics since acknowledging differences based on race, religion or sex is deemed discriminatory

This is problematic since we know migrant and Black frequently mean the same thing, whether we are born in Europe or not and whether we are African or Asian, we continue to embody that of ‘the foreigner’. Official (UKREN) records nevertheless, suggest France has the biggest population of Black people within Europe with around, 2.5 million. However, the French National Institute of Statistics (INSEE) speaks of 5 million Black people. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2011 state, we have 2.4 million Asian/Asian British and 1 million Black/African/Caribbean/Black British. Since France and the UK are said to have the two biggest Black populations in Europe and since the Europe Union now consists of 28 Members States, we might speculate that our Black populations could amount to approximately 10 – 40 million and counting across Europe. In any event, there is one thing that we do know. It is totally illusionary and dishonest to believe you can stop and control the movement of people even when you try to do it by killing us.

So what is the point of us forging alliances with our European Brothers and Sisters? According to UKREN (2012), Black people in Paris is likely to be stopped and searched by police, at best, 6 times more than White people, whilst in the UK, Black people are likely to be stopped and searched 7 times more so than a White person? The Institute for Public Policy Research, in the last quarter of 2011 (UK), said the percentage of unemployed young Black males rose to 55.9%. Black Caribbean pupils continue to be amongst the highest rates of permanent exclusion and despite our academic progress, students of African descent remain under-represented in the so-called prestigious universities (the Russell Group) with only 8% of Black students accepted compared to 24% of their White counterparts. Needless to say, we continue to be overrepresented in prisons. In Europe, the situation is no better and in some countries, we will find it a lot worse. Therefore, our starting point is that it is, in our view, unfathomable to believe that Neoliberalism and other capitalist ideologies are routes by which justice and equality for our Black people can be gained.

Populations right across Europe, experience high levels of discrimination and racist violence including Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Portugal, Sweden, Poland, France, Denmark, Spain, Greece, and Germany for example. In France, we are from Maghrebi (either Arabs or Berbers (Moors)), as well as from sub-Saharan Africa and Turkey. In Germany, we also come from sub-Saharan Africa. In Italy, we are Nigerians and Senegalese; Belgium, we are from Congo and Rwanda; Portugal we are Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau. In the Netherlands, we are from Suriname and the ‘Antilles’. Although not in the EU, there are 17,000 of our mixed-race children now growing up as Russian. That is not to ignore the French, Spanish and Portuguese ‘Antilles’ families living in Europe. Vietnamese and Chinese populations in France are growing and apparently, the Japanese are welcome there. However, in the Netherlands, Indonesian food is considered Chinese though Indonesians are by far the largest Asian group there. France and the UK have the biggest Asian populations in the European Union. According to the Pew Research Centre (2015), there are 19 million Muslims in the EU (3.8%) and Wikipedia states the largest religion in the EU is Christianity accounting for 72% of EU population. France and Germany hold the biggest Muslim populations.

We believe that the absence of an engagement with Black Peoples across Europe is to accept a line of communication that continues through a racist national discourse and therefore, through the supervision of our White neo-colonial masters. If for example, we were to ask European nationalist leaders whether they would prefer Black people to unite across Europe or to remain confined to national borders, we are confident they would choose psychological national borders for us, and greater freedom of movement for themselves without as Muhammad Ali pointed out, increasing the rights and freedoms of Black people. This probably explains why France prefers French-born Black people not to think of their race and ethnicity particularly in terms of numbers. Large numbers of us, speak to power in the way that small simply cannot. Thus, they are ‘recorded’ as French nationals only whilst always knowing through Marine Le Pen, President of the National Front for example, that in fact they are not French and never are so. We are also mindful that the important work of Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece and which indeed, mirrors at least in part, that of Momentum political movement and Jeremy Corbyn, did not in any way, reduce the number of racial attacks directed at Black People. We understand, therefore that whether we stand on the Right or the Left, whether we Remain or we Brexit, we are the only ones to rescue ourselves.  

With that in mind, we want you to discuss the possibility no matter how hard the challenges, of what we might achieve were we to unite across Europe. Could we, for example, comprehend in all the chaos it would inevitably create, the notion of a Politically Black Movement in Europe? We at MBC are unequivocally committed to the political development and education of all Black People in the pursuance and achievement of our autonomy and freedom and recognise that whilst the European Structures including the European Parliament, Council of Ministers, the Commission and the European Court of Justice were designed without thought for a Black Politics, there is an opportunity for us, if we dare to imagine and create it.  We visualise the possibility of a future where we might use this platform to increase the Black Power of our voices and therefore our political strengths. It is the platform of now 28 countries and the heart of European power where we might begin to think about for example and as a collective, a more powerful discussion on Reparations. That is why Sister Esther Stanford-Xosei the Co-Chair of MBC, raises the issue with you today. Potentially, Europe is the platform from which we might call upon all of Europe to confront its exploitative past and to face the continual destruction of our Black Peoples. Our collective strength might offer something substantive in our support to refugees. Europe might be the stage by which we remind the world of the Moors academic, architectural, and social contributions to Europe that helped Europeans out of the dark ages! Most importantly, Europe might be the platform from which we might more powerfully support our African and Asian continents.  If our work is to speak truth to power, MBC would argue that Europe amounts to being more powerful than whom we are within national boundaries and that Black Power is stronger if we are 40 million as a projection than if we are 5 million.  The population of England is 53 million, France is 66.3 million and Germany is 80.6 million.

We want this important discussion to begin and to consider how we should move forward? What visions should we have for our futures? Let us develop this together as we move forward independently, autonomously and always to address injustices through an assertion of Black Power!

Momentum Black ConneXions

Marlene Ellis

Acting General Secretary

Interim Steering Committee

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